Despite a litany of problems surrounding Dr. Ira Kirschenbaum’s tenure as Head of Orthopedic Surgery at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital, the Hospital has refused to sanction the surgeon.
In fact, Kirschenbaum had already settled three malpractice suits before he was even recruited by the Bronx-Lebanon to lead their Orthopedic Surgery department – two more were still pending at the time of his hiring. In New York, any doctor that settles three malpractice suits in a 10 year period receives a “note” on their Department of Health public profile. Dr. Kirschenbaum has received such a note as well as a 1-million-dollar-a-year job at Bronx-Lebanon. According to the New York Post, the President of Bronx-Lebanon, Miguel Fuentes, recruited him even over the objections of the chief of surgery.
Problems began almost as soon as Kirschenbaum began his tenure at the hospital in 2008. Three weeks into the job, Kirschenbaum was tasked with treating Osciena Chester, a 57-year-old Bronx resident with a dislocated hip. According to a complaint to the state about Chester and six other patients, Kirschenbaum unnecessarily delayed the procedure by 14 days. Chester then developed complications from the surgery, including an infected ulcer on her foot.
Kirschenbaum never met with the patient after her surgery. Lacking information about how to properly care for the ulcer, the wound became much worse and Chester passed away a month later. Unfortunately, Chester was only one of the three patients under the care of Kirschenbaum that died within his first month on the job. Not only did Bronx-Lebanon did not take any disciplinary action against the doctor, it proceeded to award him a year-end bonus of $275,000.
Since beginning his job at Bronx-Lebanon in 2008, Kirschenbaum has racked up seven more malpractice suits. Recently, seven hospital staffers sent an anonymous letter to the New York State Disciplinary Panel, describing Kirschenbaum’s poor treatment of patients. Responding to the New York Post, the hospital’s lawyer described the doctor as “a respected member of the medical staff.”
Primarily serving low-income patients, the hospital receives most of its revenue from Medicaid. Orthopedic surgery is a particularly lucrative source of funds for hospitals, and Kirschenbaum seems to know exactly how to maximize that revenue stream. After taking over as orthopedics chairman, Kirschenbaum began a study that required taking bone biopsies from patients, which could then be billed to Medicaid as a separate surgery. Perhaps predictably, Kirschenbaum failed to receive approval from the hospital’s research review board, which is meant to ensure studies have sufficient patient protections and provide accurate results. The end result follows a predictable pattern in Kirschenbaum’s career – an influx of cash for the hospital at the expense of the health and safety of its patients.